Bower: Versatility helps in a draft pick, but maybe not as much as 1 standout trait

A player like Arizona's Stanley Johnson could appeal to the Pistons for his versatility, but they'll also want to see one thing he does that makes him stand out
Sam Forencich (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

CHICAGO – The Pistons know that they need to find a starting small forward this summer and that they very well might need to find a starter at power forward, too.

They're not banking on their lottery pick to fill one of those slots, necessarily, but if they draft a player who can at least give them rotation minutes at one – or, better yet, both – then that's one less piece of the puzzle they'll have to solve in free agency.

That appears within the realm of the possible, given what appears to be the strength of the draft in the slots where the Pistons are most likely to choose, eighth or ninth. That's where a number of players with multipositional versatility figure to be grouped.

Among them are Arizona's Stanley Johnson and Wisconsin's Sam Dekker, both capable of playing both forward spots, and Dekker's Wisconsin teammate, Frank Kaminsky, who could provide backup center minutes – another need for the Pistons, given Joel Anthony's free agency in addition to Greg Monroe's – as well as slot in at power forward.

But just finding a versatile player won't be enough for the Pistons, general manager Jeff Bower made clear from Chicago.

"Versatility is very important. It gives a player more options and more ways to make a contribution," Bower said. "At the same time, you do have to be a standout and you do have to have a trait or a skill or a strength you can hang your hat on, particularly as a younger player."

Both Dekker and Jefferson said they would be comfortable playing anything from shooting guard to small forward and believe their versatility is among their most attractive qualities. Johnson went a step further, saying he could also serve as a team's primary ballhandler if called upon.

"I'm very versatile in what I can do," Johnson said. "I think I can play up to four positions, three really, really well, from the two, three and four. I can mesh in a lot of areas for teams."

Johnson, Dekker, Kaminsky and Texas freshman Myles Turner – who, like Kaminsky, could play both power forward and backup center, though neither would be best served early in their careers guarding accomplished post scorers – all said they had interviewed with the Pistons at the combine.

Teams aren't guaranteed interviews with any particular player, so tread carefully reading too much into the lists of players the Pistons have or have not met with at the combine. Bower, though, said he was relatively pleased with the number of requested players the NBA granted the Pistons.

"We're pleased," he said. "You don't always get everybody that you want, but we were able to see a large portion of the players we asked for. Like every team, we missed on getting a few guys that are here but we'll be able to get them in Detroit, eventually, on their visit to the site. But we're very pleased with the opportunities that this whole combine creates for us."

Bower also gave positive feedback on the makeup of the players he and Stan Van Gundy, among other members of the front office and coaching staff, have met so far.

"Quality, quality young men off the court," he said. "We were really impressed with both their accomplishments as basketball players and their maturity and the way they handled themselves in the meetings. Very, very impressive."

Some of the players the Pistons won't get to meet here: Jahlil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns, Emmanuel Mudiay, Kristaps Porzingis and Mario Hezonja. The first three all decided not to participate, the latter two couldn't due to their ongoing Spain ACB seasons. The Pistons would surely need to draw a top-three pick in next Tuesday's lottery, where Bower will represent the franchise, to have a shot at Okafor, Towns or Mudiay. And there's a chance both of the Europeans could also be gone by the time the eighth pick rolls around.

"It makes it hard when someone isn't here or doesn't take (part) in the physicals," he said. "That's information that's still needed. It's a lot more convenient to get it done here."

And Bower and his staff want to be as well versed on them as the players who more realistically could be on the board closer to the bottom of the top 10.

"It's crucial as an organization that you know the draft from top to bottom," he said. "You just don't know when something may come available that is unexpected and we'll be prepared if that happens."